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Backing up data files from an infected computer safely


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I am running Windows 10 Home on a HP machine.

I suspect that my machine has become infected in the recent past and I want to clean up the malware, either by a number of removal tools or by formatting. Before doing that, I need to back up my important data, but I don't want to back up any infected files as I will be restoring them after the malware removal process is done. Now, I only have this one machine, the possibly infected one, and an external HDD that I back up my data to. But I don't want my external HDD to get infected too when I plug it in via USB cable. Is there a relatively safer way to back up my recent data to my HDD from my infected computer? 

At this point, I'm considering using either a Live CD/USB to boot the computer and then copy my documents, photos, videos etc to my external HDD, or back up to a cloud storage. Which of these two options will be better and safer?

I have around 250 gb of data on my hard drive, so please suggest a safe backup method accordingly.

ALSO, I have read on online forums that I should refrain from backing up certain file formats like .exe, .ini, .xml etc. While I know what the executable and autorun file formats are and won't be backing them up, I do not understand what script files like .php and .xml are and which kinds of files are supposed to have them. Do normal word documents (.docx), picture, video and audio file formats have any script files attached to them that I may need to worry about? 

Any help and suggestions will be truly appreciated as I need it urgently. Thanks in advance.

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Just use an anti virus application such as Avira AntiVir and scan that 250GB of files and then back them up to USB.

Don't backup Executable ( EXE ) files or script file like JS, JSE, VBS, or VBE.  Files such as INI and XML can not infect and are harmless by themselves.  Back them up or don't back them up, they aren't data and aren't capable of infecting.

Don't worry about Documents or Media files.  If they were malicious, the anti virus application such as Avira AntiVir would filter them out. Hopefully malicious script files like script file like JS, JSE, VBS, and/or VBE will also be filtered-out.


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Hello, David, thank you for the prompt response. Could I use Malwarebytes itself to scan the data before backing it up? Would that be sufficient? I have used Avira for my phone before, never used it for PC. I suppose I could use the likes of Kaspersky, Avast and Bitdefender as well (the free versions)? 

One other thing, is it possible, that when I plug in the USB drive, the malware infecting my system can propagate to the USB? 


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No.  MBAM does not target scripted files, documents or media files via signatures.  If you want to ensure a clean  backup-set you want the anti virus to scan ( target ) the broadest range of file types.

Yes, you could use the likes of Kaspersky, Avast and Bitdefender as well since they do target those file types.

If you have Kaspersky, Avast, Avira or Bitdefender installed, it will prevent such possibilities of infection to/from a USB Flash drive.  Also such possibilities are remediated by turning off AutoPlay/AutoRun for removable media.

Edited by David H. Lipman
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